I first heard about World Vision at a Casting Crowns concert in 2010. During the intermission, I was moved by the testimonies of other child sponsors, and that evening I was introduced to Cedric Okala in Uganda. I held his sponsorship card in my hand and made a commitment in my heart to sponsor him.
I will confess that in the beginning, I was a bit skeptical about World Vision and its ministry, but then I began to look into the organization. I read Rich Stearns’ book The Hole in Our Gospel and became more educated about problems in Uganda, including the Lord’s Resistance Army. I was moved by the compassion God had given Rich. His story, like the other sponsors at the concert I attended, inspired me to want to make a change in poverty-stricken countries.
In the course of five years, Cedric and I have corresponded via email and letters stamped “Posta Uganda.” We’ve shared stories about our faith, family, and culture. Cedric is our family. At every meal, we pray for him and his community.
Inspired to do more
One year into my sponsorship with Cedric, I hosted a child sponsorship party in my home. I got to introduce Cedric to my friends and family through photos and our letters. I shared a video with them about how they, too, can make a difference in a child’s life.
Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.—1 Thessalonians 2:8
Months later, I learned about Team World Vision. I had considered myself an average athlete growing up, but reading about Team World Vision and their cause to raise money for projects that bring clean water into the communities inspired me even more. I had read a testimony of Lopez Lomong, a refugee from South Sudan who became a U.S. Olympic athlete, and about how he partnered with Team World Vision to run and make a difference in his birth country.
On the day of my half marathon I felt in my heart I was running for Cedric. I wore my Team World Vision T-shirt that reads “I run for Africa” proudly!
Meeting Cedric at the midpoint
In July 2013, I was invited to join a mission trip to South Sudan. When looking at the route we would be traveling by car I saw that Minakulu, Uganda — where Cedric lives — was exactly the midway point of our destination from Kampala, Uganda, to Nimule, South Sudan. I immediately submitted an application to World Vision to visit Cedric.
When I arrived with my mission team in Kampala, we went to the World Vision office. We asked for directions, and I was impressed with how well-informed the community was about World Vision. This validated the work World Vision is doing in countries around the globe.
But when we drove past the “Posta Uganda” office, it all became a reality to me. For the last four years I had seen the stamp on all of Cedric’s letters, and suddenly I was seeing it with my own eyes.
The morning I drove into Minakulu, I was greeted by Cedric’s mother with a big hug. We just held each other there for a moment. Though there was a language barrier, words were not necessary — we understood from one mother to another the love we have for our children.
Our visit consisted of introductions, a feast, a traditional dance, and a Bible story. Then Cedric and I were finally able to read our letters together.
I thank God for this divine appointment. It brings me to tears when I look back and remember how when I held Cedric’s sponsor card at that concert, I would have never thought that he and I would be sharing a meal together. I thank God for World Vision founder Bob Pierce answering the call to build this ministry and for all of the World Vision management, staff, volunteers, and sponsors for their commitment to changing lives.
Just recently, I got to volunteer at a similar concert to the one I attended five years ago. This time I was on the other side of the World Vision table, and I got to share my story and the letters and photos of my journey to Minakulu. That evening, 89 children were sponsored. Praise God!
Together, World Vision and child sponsors are sowing very special seeds in the kingdom of God.
Violet Ornelas is a World Vision volunteer and child sponsor. Ornelas lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband and their daughter, Ellie.